BEREA — New defensive coordinator Jim O’Neil is a fan of Browns outside linebacker Barkevious Mingo.
So is his wife.
O’Neil was linebackers coach with the Bills last season. He scouted Mingo and got to know him before the draft.
“On draft day my wife actually made Barkevious Mingo cupcakes for the guys who had the power to make the eighth overall pick,” said O’Neil, who was introduced by new coach Mike Pettine on Thursday at a news conference. “Obviously it didn’t happen, but I’m a big fan of Mingo. I’m looking forward to working with him.
“He flashes some on tape. He did a lot of good things. He’s obviously a young player, he’s got some things to work on, but we’re excited as a defensive staff to get him back here and start working with him.”
The Browns took Mingo with the sixth pick, denying Buffalo the chance. He had a sack in each of his first three games but finished with only five and 42 tackles in a disappointing rookie season.
Pettine believes he’s still capable of playing at a level worthy of his draft position.
“We’re confident in that,” he said. “I feel as a coach if a guy shows he can do it, even if it’s just for one play, if he flashes that brilliance, then it’s our job to get him more consistent that he can do it two out of three plays, three out of four, keep raising that percentage higher and higher. To me that’s coaching.
“We’ve got to remove those barriers of what’s keeping him from doing it every play. I think a lot of the guys in studying them, there’s a lot of room for improvement. That’s what the defensive staff is going through right now, assessing ‘What do these guys do well and what do we need to drill these guys on to improve them?’”
Pettine was the defensive coordinator in Buffalo last year and verified the cupcake story. They were a variety of flavors, with “Mingo” written on them.
“The cupcake story is absolutely true,” Pettine said.
He thinks Mingo would benefit from a few more cupcakes. He’s 6-foot-4 and played at about 235 pounds last year.
“He is a lean, angular guy and the NFL is a size and speed league,” Pettine said. “If he has the frame capable of carrying more weight, which I think it’s pretty clear that he does, that’s something we’re going to push for him to do.”
On the day Pettine was hired, CEO Joe Banner said not waiting for Seahawks defensive coordinator Dan Quinn to coach in the Super Bowl was “probably the toughest decision.”
“There’s no doubt we were very impressed with him in the interview,” Banner said of Quinn on Jan. 23. “He’s going to be an outstanding head coach.”
The focused returned to Quinn after Seattle’s Super Bowl win, which included a dominant defensive performance, when he told Cleveland.com that he probably would’ve taken the Browns job if it had been offered. Pettine will naturally be compared to Quinn moving forward, but he said that doesn’t add pressure.
“I don’t think you could feel any more under the gun as an NFL head coach than what the normal circumstances bring,” he said. “I think Dan Quinn’s an outstanding coach. I’ve known him for a long time, he’ll be a head coach in this league and be a real good one.
“I’m thrilled for those guys that they were able to win the Super Bowl, but that didn’t factor into it for me. I think the standards that I set for myself and the standards that we’re going to set for ourselves as a staff are more than any other pressure that could come externally.”
After Pettine was hired he said he wouldn’t have waited until after the Super Bowl for the Browns to make a decision. He didn’t want to make the Bills wait to let them know if he was returning.
But he said he didn’t give the Browns an ultimatum or make them aware of his sense of urgency.
“That was more of a venting session to my agent more than anything else, but not at any point did I say, ‘Hey, you need to tell me or I’m pulling out,’” Pettine said.
Special teams coordinator Chris Tabor has been with the Browns a little more than three years. He’s on his third head coach.
Tabor was hired by Pat Shurmur in January 2011. Rob Chudzinski kept Tabor in 2013, and Pettine retained him this time around.
“For me and my family to have the opportunity to stay here again and work for another head coach, I feel very fortunate that the organization is giving me that opportunity,” Tabor said. “I like it here, my family likes it here. That’s another dynamic that a lot of people don’t talk about. I grew up in the same house, my mom still lives in the same house, and for myself to give my daughters another opportunity to stay in the same hometown, that’s important to me.”
Pettine revealed the Browns didn’t allow Tabor to interview with other teams after Chudzinski was fired. Offensive coordinator Norv Turner and defensive coordinator Ray Horton were allowed and were hired by other teams.
“He’s one of the most well-respected special teams coaches in the league as evidenced by the number of requests that came in for him after the season,” Pettine said of Tabor. “He was not permitted to leave and I’m glad that happened. He’s a quality coach, a son of a coach and as you guys will see with the staff makeup I have a soft spot for coaches’ kids.”
Pettine’s dad, Mike Sr., was a legendary high school coach outside of Philadelphia.
ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. said he doesn’t believe Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel will be available at No. 4 when the Browns are scheduled to pick.
“To see Manziel there would be a surprise to me,” Kiper said on a conference call. “When you talk to people in the league, he’s kind of the consensus No. 1 quarterback. (Blake) Bortles, (Teddy) Bridgewater, there’s mixed opinion on. There’s some who don’t have Manziel that high. But the ones I talk to all have him as the No. 1 quarterback.”
Kiper’s latest mock draft has the Browns taking Bridgewater, who went to Louisville.
“Joe Banner was in Philadelphia when they drafted Donovan McNabb,” Kiper said. “You see some similarities with McNabb and Bridgewater. Not 10 similarities, but enough to say maybe Bridgewater would make sense. I heard Cleveland maybe has a pretty good opinion of Bridgewater.”
Pettine announced the hiring of 11 more assistants to bring the total to 20, including strength and conditioning. He said he may add one or two before he’s done.
The hires Thursday were: Dowell Loggains (quarterbacks), Mike McDaniel (receivers), Andy Moeller (offensive line), Wilbert Montgomery (running backs), Anthony Weaver (defensive line), Paul Ricci (strength and conditioning), George DeLeone (assistant offensive line), Chris DiSanto (assistant strength and conditioning), Richard Hightower (offensive quality control), Derik Keyes (assistant strength and conditioning) and Tony Tuioti (defensive quality control).